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Abstract

This article explores differences among female-headed households (FHHs) and male-headed households (MHHs) in terms of food poverty in Cameroon, Laos, Madagascar, Mauritania, and Tanzania. Stochastic dominance analysis shows that FHHs are more likely to be food poor related to MHHs, though this trend is less clear when looking only at food poor households. This ambiguity was clarified using discriminant function analysis. The results show that both female and male food poor households face the same obstacles to rural employment across the countries; barriers to access to land, productive assets, education, remittances and over-dependence on subsistence agriculture. Although further research is required to account for gender differences in social, cultural, political and economic status, these results suggest that greater attention should be paid to long-term policies in ensuring access to quality education, land and other assets to all food insecure households, not only to FHHs to the possible detriment of food poor MHHs. In the short-term cash or food-for-assets and school feeding programmes can also provide important springboards for larger scale changes in national policies that are central to escaping the food poverty trap.